Offline fulfillment as done by John Lewis and Argos

Recently, my wife decided we need 3 pieces of  new furniture for the house. I didn’t argue, there’s no point – I  just looked at the images she’d found online and nodded in agreement.

The websites in question were John Lewis and Argos and I watched as my wife completed the purchases onlne. Largely the oline experience was reasonable, however what amazed me was that some companies still haven’t sorted out their customer experience for actually delivering the goods you’ve ordered

Here’s what happened with the 3 pieces of furniture we ordered.

1) John Lewis confirmed the order and then on the thank you page informed us that the item will be delivered within 4 to 5 working days. There was no page to choose when you wanted to receive the goods, simply the 4 to 5 working days statement. This item was delievered to us eventually but only after they had left a note to say they’d missed us and could we go online to tell them a good day to deliver. Ok, so my wife went online, and filled in the details and conformed she’d like delivery the next day.

Unfortunately there was no time slot on the form. Luckily John Lewis did deliver the furniture – but only just before my wife was about to head out to pick my son from school. 5 minutes later and they would have missed her again.  What a waste of petrol and people’s time ! It could have been worse if they’d been 5 minutes late, or she 5 minutes earlier.

2) With Argios we ordered two different items, one was a ‘ ready-made ‘ item  and one was ready made. The ‘ready- made’  purchase process offered no timescales but simply said we would get a call to request a  delivery time.  So far so good, until on Sunday lunch time when we happened to have the outlaws (parents in law) around for lunch and then we got a strange call from an automated IVR.

I nearly slammed the phone down thinking I was about to be informed I’d won another stupid competition when I heard the word Argos and swiftly handed the phone over to my wife who had ordered the item and was more likely to be in during the week to accept delivery. When my wife eventually got to speak to a call centre person they were friendly and arranged a delivery or the following  morning. Not too bad really, bad time to call at lunch time but hey,  they weren’t to know we were having lunch !

Having said that, surely it wouldn’t be that dificult to build an online form which can tie up good times for a customer with good times for the delivery warehouse in real time? Again, this would save valuable call centre resource, my time, my wife’s time and stopping our Sunday lunch getting cold ! Surely something worth considering during these economically tough times for companies.

3) Finally, the purchase process for the flatpack (again Argos and during the smae brwoser session) had an online delivery request as part of the process. You could pick your day, however the timeslots were 7am til 6pm.  Now, I’m sorry but who can stay in all day bewteen 7am til 6pm. My wife doesn’t currently work in paid employment as she’s looking after our two children, however she does have to pop out the house occassionally.  In fact, she needs to get out the house otherwise insanity quickly draws in. Also, we’re buying stuff from the same company (Argos in theory) so why can’t they  be efficient and deliver everything at once?

So my question is this – it’s 2010,  almost 2011, retail websites have come a long way, we can shop 24/7, we’re all connected constantly should we want to be, and, a lot of people work, in offices, for long hours – so why do companies persisit in being so awkward when it comes to final delivery of an item. Surely they can give a much better customer experience, and actually save them selves money in staff and fuel in the long run. Answers on a postcard please !


About philty

UX professional working for major financial services player in the UK
This entry was posted in Customer experience, Fulfillment, Retail, User experience design. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Offline fulfillment as done by John Lewis and Argos

  1. Nial Adams says:

    So, so true Phil! It’s hard to understand why so many companies get this vital component so utterly wrong. It’s clearly just a case of good clean processes, built on a foundation of common sense, then combined with basic training so everyone understands. Add in a good feedback loop to pick up when things do go wrong and there you go…

    • philty says:

      Thanks for the comment Nial, it is amazing isn’t it? I find it incredible that the delivery side of the experience expect people not to be at work during the day. The same goes for if you get your Gas serviced or anything else serviced for that matter. Any examples of great fulfillment out there? I’ve heard Ocado are very good…

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